Big Sky 3.09 “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” opens with Walter sitting alone in a dark, high-ceilinged interview room.
He leans over the table, sitting up when Sheriff Beau Arlen and Deputy Jenny Hoyt enter. They want to know his name because he’s not in the system. “Two of your victims were from Sunny Day Excursions. You went through their campers like a fox in the henhouse, didn’t ya?” says Beau.
He decides to call him Toby which doesn’t phase Walter in the least. Jenny puts down pictures of Luke and Mary: “Did you kill them?” Walter just looks back at her calmly, eyebrows raised. “What about her?”
She holds up a picture of Paige. They haven’t found her body, but there were bloody bandages in his cabin. Walter leans forward, eyes on the picture. Though handcuffed, his hands reach forward as if to caress her image.
“Where is Paige?” asks Jenny.
“She’s dead. I killed her,” says Walter.
At the Boot Heel Bar, Cassie and Cormac are dancing with obvious attraction and enjoyment between the two. They even share a kiss, but Cassie, though they promised not to talk about it, can’t avoid asking about Buck lying about selling the truck. Cormac doesn’t want to discuss it: he’d rather dance. When Cassie doesn’t follow him back onto the floor, he apologizes, says he can’t talk about it, and leaves. “Well done, Cassie,” Cassie murmurs to herself.
At Sunny Day Excursions, Buck is cutting down the advertising banner. He accidentally slices his finger and sucks for a moment at the welling blood, then traces with his bloody finger the shape of a heart onto the wood post. “Been a while, you and me, hasn’t it?” he says quietly. Seeing Sunny approach, he rapidly wipes the blood away from the post with his shirt sleeve. Sunny has been looking for Paige’s body. “It just don’t make sense,” she says. “What if Paige is still out there, alive?” Buck wants her to stop. He tells her it’s time to pick up the pieces. It’s about moving on. She promises to let this go.
Cassie tells Jenny that she blew it with Cormac. Jenny says they’re both in a tough position. Cassie wants to know how Beau is doing with his ex and Avery and “all that craziness.” Jenny says he hasn’t talked about it, and she’s trying to give him space. Speaking of men not talking, they start to discuss their mysterious suspect. They think it’s weird that the only crime he’s confessed to – Paige’s murder – is the one with no body. Cassie decides to go talk to him, acting like a friend.
Emily has spent the night with her dad Beau at his Airstream RV. While looking for his Foreman grill, she pulls out a box with a light-colored Stetson hat on top. The box is filled with various files and envelopes. She opens one to see a newspaper article: “Cop Mourns Murdered Partner” with a picture of Beau. She tucks it back in the manila folder as her dad calls her. He light-heartedly tells her that her mom is picking her up and is expecting him to have fed her so she’ll have to lie. Emily teases him about the stale cereal she ate – it had expired a year earlier. “Here we go,” he mutters as Carla gets out of the car. She brought breakfast, which is in the car, where she wants Emily to go so she can talk to her ex-husband. “Avery’s at a hotel,” she says. “Not that I care, but that seems like a good place for him,” remarks Beau. “We’re trying to work things out,” Carla says.
She tries to explain how Avery got in over his head and says Beau can go ahead and gloat. She’s in an open mood, not bitter, and Beau tells her that he’s not gloating. Growing more serious, he says the only thing that matters is that she and Emily are OK. “We will be,” she says, and he reaches out to take her hand. “I care about you,” he says, a quiet declaration. “I know you do,” she answers. “Just needed you to know that,” he says, putting his hand in his pocket. Carla says she might need him to take Emily for a little bit while she and Avery sort out what they’re going to do. “I got you. I’m here for you AND Emily,” he says, then adds that he has her set up at Dewell and Hoyt as a kind of unpaid internship. Carla’s amused that he’s picked a detective agency, but he says he trusts them and Denise can watch Emily while he’s at work. A phone call interrupts with the news that a body has been found in Pine Tree Park. Beau has to go. “Just be careful,” Carla tells him. “Always am,” he responds seriously. He watches for a moment as she walks back to her car.
Beau, in a lambskin lined jean jacket, and Jenny arrive at the park. Two bicyclists who found the body point up. There is a parachutist hanging from a tree, tangled in his lines, the canopy collapsed in the tree limbs. They go to meet Mia Baker, the wife of the parachutist. Notifying the next of kin is the worst part of the job, Beau says. Poppernak tells them on the phone that the lines of the parachute had been cut. The death now looks like a homicide.
The widow tells them that her husband Brett would parachute in when hired for special events. Previously, he’d been a smoke jumper. He had quit because his best friend Dave had died on the fireline and he’d seen him die. The death had been ruled an accident, but Brett blamed himself. “I know how that goes,” adds Beau. Dave’s father Frank, the fire squad leader, had held his son’s death against Brett. However, had he blamed him enough to want him dead?
To the clack of pool balls and the quiet background of a country song, Avery enters a bar. He meets up with the black-suited man who’d hired Tonya and Donno to find Paige and Luke. Avery is uncomfortable being there in public. He wants to know how Avery is doing trying to get into the account. He’s had a week to get the money. Avery tells him the account is heavily encrypted. He gives him twenty-four more hours; if he gets the money, Avery can have a million dollars as a “generous finder’s fee.” It is, after all, all his money. Avery reminds him that they wouldn’t even be there if he hadn’t stolen pages from Paige’s journal; the clue to cracking the code and getting into the account would be locked up in a police evidence room. If he doesn’t, the man threatens him that one night a man will enter his house and he will wake up alone: Carla and Emily will be dead, murdered quietly through gas or a wire stuck into the eye. Avery needs to move fast. The man finishes Avery’s drink and walks out. Avery stares at the table.
Beau and Jenny arrive at the Lewis & Clark Smokejumpers Unit of Helena, Montana to talk to Frank. He admits that he’d come down hard on Brett in his grief after his son died. “When you make a mistake, people die.” “So you do blame Brett!” says Beau. “You son of a bitch!” exclaims the older man. “You come in here and accuse me -” but he is cut off by another parachutist approaching, reminding him to cool down. Frank angrily denies being involved and says if they need anything else, they should talk to his lawyer.
Cassie approaches Walter, who is still handcuffed to the table. He recognizes her as the Good Samaritan who’d stopped when his vehicle had broken down. She wants to know his name; how can she help him if she doesn’t know what to call him? No one can help me, he responds carelessly. She tells him that the police think he killed Mark, Mary, Luke, and Paige, but she’s not so sure about that. She tells him that she knows he had Mark’s body in the Suburban and that he’d carved figurines for him and the others. She wants to know why he moved the body; had someone told him to? She tries to appeal to his empathy by saying Mark’s parents are in a lot of pain, and Walter interjects that he didn’t kill him. He pulls angrily at the handcuffs, and Cassie flinches. “People always think the worst of me,” Walter says. “You moved his body and left one of your figurines for us to find,” says Cassie. She wants to know about the figures. Walter tells her they were meant for protection so when they pass over, they have a friend with them. There wasn’t a figure with Mary or Luke, Cassie notes. They didn’t need protection? “Not from me,” Walter says, staring her straight in the eye. Then Cassie shows him a picture of another figurine they’d found at the cabin. Is it of Paige? Did she need protection? Why did he confess to murdering her? Walter just stares at her.
In his restaurant, Donno gives a lady a veggie burger – “Go ahead; waste your time” – and then discusses with Tonya what they should do next. He thinks there’s no next move since Luke and Paige are dead, but Tonya says the money is still out there. Tonya thinks Avery was onto it and may have the journal pages. Suddenly, Sunny walks in with aggressive, fake friendliness. “I told you I had my eye on you,” she says.
Donno moves to stand next to Tonya: “You’d better be careful. Someone might cut it out – your eye.” Sunny lowers her chin and her voice: “You’d do well to mind your manners, son.” “Sorry,” mutters Donno. Sunny knows that they were at her camp looking for Luke and Paige; she wants to know why. Tonya says that they’re dead, and they caught the guy who did it. “Mountain freak,” says Donno. “Is that a fact?” says Sunny calmly but intently. She acknowledges Luke’s death and Mary’s but says there’s no body for Paige. She wants to know what happened in those woods so she can protect her campers.
Tanya wants to know what she’s really doing there. Sunny told them that she thinks Paige is still alive. That gets Tonya’s attention. Sunny smiles. When she exits the restaurant, Cormac is watching, unbeknownst to her.
Jenny and Beau, who’s toying with a football, are sitting at a table spread with files. They have a dead cowboy, a tampered parachute, and a dysfunctional smoke-jumping unit with baggage. Jenny remarks that Beau went at Frank pretty hard. Is there something he wants to tell her? “People make mistakes. It’s up to leaders to navigate them,” he answers. They plan to look into Frank’s #2 – Cooper. Just then, Poppernak enters with the news that homes have been robbed after the owners evacuated because of the fire danger. Frank’s smoke jumpers have been accused of being thieves. Right around the time of the accusation, the victim, Brett Baker, had rented a storage unit.
Emily is hanging out with Denise when Cassie enters. Denise wants to know how the figurines tie into the Bleeding Heart murder. Cassie wants to find out who the mysterious prisoner is.
Night has fallen by the time Beau and Jenny arrive at the storage unit.
They find the worker behind the counter dead so they call in backup. On the security camera, Beau sees that the killer is still there. Guns drawn, he and Hoyt approach the intruder, but he runs, climbing over a tall chain link fence to get away.
When they look inside the storage unit, they find a stash of money and other loot. Later, Beau and Jenny question Frank about the stolen goods. HIs son had been listed as a notification contact. The sheriff tells him that they have reason to believe that his crew is involved in a robbery ring from last fire season. “My son was a hero!” Frank declares. He’s not going to sit there and have their names dragged through the mud. Beau asks him where he was last night. Frank tells him he was fighting a brush fire and leaves. Since Frank has an alibi, they chased someone else at the storage unit last night. Beau thinks Frank might be useful.
Someone knocks at a door and it opens. It’s Avery beaming as Carla enters his motel room. “What’s the big emergency?” asks Carla after they hug. She’s surprised to see all the computers he has set up. He says it’s nothing and wants to know how she is. “I’m fine,” she says, in a superior tone. “Is this about your money problem with the SEC?” Avery skirts the question, telling her that he’s found a lovely Air B&B outside of town with llamas and a hot tub. He’d like them to go away as a family to try to make things right. He doesn’t even have to join them right now. She can go with Emily and he’ll come later. “No,” she responds. “Carla, please!” Avery begs, reaching out to her. “This is a really tough time for all of us.” Carla tells him that she can’t just take off work and go out of town with Emily again. When he says that he’s already booked it, she says, “Well, that is not my problem” a bit snippily. They pause. “Please, Carla. I’m really trying here,” he says, “harder than you realize.” She pulls her hands away from him. “This is going to go the way it’s going to go,” she says calmly but earnestly. “You lied to me.” She turns and walks out.
Emily enters the detective agency with a box of doughnuts for Cassie and Denise. Seeing the idea board, she asks if there’s any news on the Bleeding Heart Murder.
Cassie says it’s a cold case with no connection to the guy they found. They’re hoping to find something in the evidence from the cabin. Emily says that’s a good idea because people hang onto keepsakes. After all, her mom still keeps her old wedding dresses hanging up in her closet. Yes, plural. People keep sentimental things in sentimental places. Her words have got Cassie thinking: “Maybe I missed something.” She stares intently at the pictures on the board.
Cormac is toying with the hospital wrist band he’d found in the attic. Then, he enters his parents’ house. Buck and Sunny have been arguing. Sunny is saying, “I don’t care. He’s my boy, and I want to see him.” Buck tells her she made a promise. “I’m his mother! He needs me!” flares Sunny. “And you don’t get to tell me what to do.” Just then Cormac enters. He wants to know what his mom was doing at the diner meeting Tonya and Donno. Sunny says she wanted to find out more about what happened to Luke and Paige. Buck wants Cormac to give them a minute, but Cormac won’t leave. He has an idea who the man in the cabin is, but he wants to hear her say it. “Ok,” says Sunny. “His name’s Walter. He’s your brother.” Cormac looks pretty devastated to hear this. They sit and have a discussion about it. He’s not Buck’s (“God, no,” says Buck), and Sunny says it was a mistake. She’s tried to raise him on her own but couldn’t. She left him at a church – safe surrender.
Sunny is reluctant to tell Cormac the rest, but at Buck’s encouragement she says that Walter ended up with a family that treated him bad. Sunny had a second chance to be a mother to him. She hid him away. She protected him. Cormac closes his eyes. “I have a brother,” he says, “and you’ve lied to me all these years.” Sunny admits that it’s true and that she was wrong. When Cormac says that Walter may be a killer, Sunny denies it. Cormac says that he confessed to the murder and they found blood at the cabin. “The backpacker’s blood,” says his mother.
“Paige’s blood. Cassie told me,” replies Cormac. Sunny sits stunned. “You’ve got to accept it,” Buck tells her, then tells Cormac that he got the answers he wanted. Now he needs to not blow up the family. They’ve hidden this secret for twenty years. Don’t make it for nothing. “He’s a killer!” Cormac replies incredulously. “People would be alive if it weren’t for you.” Buck tells him that it’s over and there’s nothing they can take back. “Most of life’s about what you’re willing to live with.”
Frank and Cooper meet at the deserted hanger. Frank tells him they found a cache of stolen goods. He thinks he was in it with Brett and his son. He wants to know if Cooper killed Brett. “Brett was a liability,” Cooper tells him. “I took care of a disloyal loose end.” “What about my son?” asks Frank. The two men stare each other in the eye. “Your son died in a fire,” Cooper says, voice shaking slightly with intensity. “It was all Brett’s fault. I did us both a favor by killing him.” Frank tells him that he thinks that his son had a change of heart about stealing and that Cooper killed him to keep him quiet. “No, Frank!” Cooper says. “I know, and so do they,” Frank replies. Cooper realizes that Frank is wearing a wire. Their conversation has been recorded. Outside the hanger, Beau tells all units to move in. With a shout of rage, Frank lunges at Cooper, bearing him to the floor with his hands around his neck: “You killed my son.” Jenny, Beau, and other police enter, guns drawn. Beau pulls Frank away and tells him to stop while Jenny handcuffs Cooper. He’s led away while Beau stands in front of Frank with his hand on his shoulder to keep him from attacking Cooper again. “He killed my son,” says the man in a devastated voice. “I know,” Beau says compassionately.
Sunny returns to Walter’s cabin, ripping down the police warning tape. She looks at various items. “Goodbye, my sweet boy. Lord, please take care of him,” she says aloud. Then she hears a woman’s voice say, “Hello,” from outside. Cassie approaches the cabin.
Noticing the cut police tape, she enters with a flashlight and gun.
Sunny is hiding with a small knife held at the ready.
Cassie removes a board from the floor and finds a manila envelope hidden there.
“You just missed a shooting star!” calls Jenny, sitting on a lawn chair outside Beau’s Airstream. He brings her a beer. “Nice!” she says. “One of many,” he answers. “You OK?” she asks. For a moment, he looks at her, then he laughs self-deprecatingly. He says he was thinking about how Frank would have done anything for his son, anything, no matter what. Jenny affirms that she would do anything for her son and that Beau would do anything for Emily. “That’s just it,” says Beau. “It doesn’t feel like I’m there for her. She found a dead body, and that stepfather of hers is questionable at best. I don’t know what to do about it, and I don’t like that.” Jenny tells him that Emily is a good kid and strong because Carla and he have taught her to be. “Just give yourself a break,” she says, patting his arm. “All right,” he says and they clink their bottles together.
Beau wonders if Cassie got lost. Jenny says she might be distracted by Cormac. Beau isn’t jealous but he is interested in what might be going on. Before Jenny could say more, Cassie comes up. Their mystery man is no longer a mystery. The manila folder had old newspaper clippings about a house fire that killed a couple. “His name’s Walter,” says Cassie.
“I am a poor, wayfaring stranger,” sings Sunny, sitting in the dark alone by a fire. Emily eyes the crime board, wondering about the murders. Avery lies on his bed exhausted, only to sit up when the computer beeps. Fifteen million dollars. He’s opened the account. With a smile of triumph, he snatches up his phone. He calls the black-suited man with the news. Cormac sits at a bar, contemplating the news he’s gotten. “I’m going home,” sings Sunny mournfully. “You have a beautiful voice,” says a woman. Sunny stands and turns. Paige is standing there.
- Why has no one noticed the ranger that was murdered? Someone should have noticed that he’s missing.
- Is Buck the Bleeding Heart Murderer? If so, how has he lived so innocuously in normal society for so long?
- What is Paige’s end game? The money is lost to her so what will she do next?
- Will Cormac and Cassie get together as a couple? Will Carla stay with Avery? Is love in the cards for Beau?
- I only heard one callback to Supernatural. What did you hear?
Add your thoughts below, in the comments!
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Illustrated by Nightsky. Images courtesy of ABC.